Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Umbrellas Needed: Elements of a Heavy Rain Maker

I wrote the below article originally for the February/March 2010 edition of Originate! (an online Legal Business Development Magazine).

Many attorneys proclaim that they want to be rainmakers. They want to be one of those lawyers who are experts in their field while simultaneously being a wizard of business development. They admire their peers who can balance achieving high billable hours while still finding the time to cultivate successful business relationships that lead to referrals.

It is not that some lawyers are born with a “sales gene” and others are lacking the ability to be a rainmaker. It’s true that some people do have more outgoing personalities, but anyone can learn to be better when it comes to creating mutually beneficial connections in the business community.

Law schools do a great job in preparing lawyers for the law, but they come up short in delivering the real business skills that it takes to navigate a lifetime in practice. Big law firms nurture associates on the nuances of their legal career, but fail them by shielding them from the realities of running a business. Nobody would suggest a client only worry about business development and marketing when they have free time, yet many lawyers run their practice this way and treat their client development as an after-thought.

Lawyers need to realize that in their careers they are also entrepreneurs running individual companies. In this manner they are no different from the corporate executives who are their clients. Look at any corporation, regardless of the industry, you will find that sales, marketing, PR and business development (and now social media) are keys to success. There is no hiding from the fact that to succeed you need clients both now and in the future!

Whether in a solo practice, a mid-size group, or big law firm every attorney must embrace the responsibility for being a rainmaker. Real rainmakers do more than wish they could develop business; they take the actions necessary to cultivate a reputation. They go out of their way to assist others in their careers. And they make sure that others know exactly how to help them should the opportunity arise.

Here are five fundamental things to remember if you want to make it rain to the point that you need a bigger umbrella:

1. Make business development a priority. You cannot wish your way to success. You have to take action and put in the effort to build your personal and professional brand. Just doing good work will not inevitably make your phone ring with clients.

2. Ask questions of the people you meet. If you do not know what other people do for a living, who makes up their clientele, and how they find new will never be able to be a real rainmaker. A strong curiosity about other people will uncover your roadmap to success. Talking about yourself too much when you first meet people will make them think you care only about you own career.

3. Make other people feel important. Never ignore anyone in your network. Even when you are busy you need to find the time to let people know they matter to you. People are more impressed when they know you care about them than they are by how many hours you work.

4. Give referrals. The more referrals you give to people in your business community, the more you will get. The secret is that real rainmakers give three to five referrals for every one they get in return. The inbound referrals are also not necessarily from the people they assisted. People are watching you and when they know you are a giver, they are thrilled to help you. Meanwhile, they never help the takers.

5. Say “Thank You”. Every time someone helps you, directly or indirectly, you need to acknowledge the assistance they sent in your direction. Busy professionals (not just lawyers) often forget to express gratitude and thus they kill the golden goose of referrals.

No, it’s not magic; it’s elemental business development action we’re talking about here...the start of your own heavy-rain making.

Have A Great Day.


For more great article on business development for law firms, visit the ORIGINATE! website.

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